LitKicks Reviews

With this column, we initiate a new series of book reviews here at LitKicks. If you would like your own work reviewed, please read the note at the end of this article.

Crawl Space is by Edie Meidav, who specializes in sharp fables of historical consequence. Her first novel, The Far Field, took us to a heart of darkness inside colonial Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) between the first and second world wars. Meidav might have spent her career exploring the literary terrains of Southeast Asia, but Crawl Space delivers a change-up, taking us to a modern-day French village where a villainous Nazi collaborator awaits the latest in a lifetime of war crime prosecutions.

This villian is the story’s narrator, and with a gleeful guilt-soaked voice that somehow recalls Humbert Humbert in Lolita he tells us how he’s evaded conviction with facial surgery, good lawyers and dumb luck. Of course, just as Humbert did, the narrator will convict himself before the book is over. Meidav is a skillful storyteller, and my only gripe with this book is the choice of subject. Nazi atrocities have become a cliche and are certainly old news in a world that serves up wartime atrocities like McDonald’s serves up hamburgers. The territory is overly familiar — why not take us to Bosnia, or Africa, or Korea, or Iraq? I like Meidav’s approach to historical analysis through fiction, but there is newer ground to cover, and I’m looking forward to her next journey, wherever it may take us.

Steve Aylett’s Lint is a completely wacky outing, a biography of a crazed science-fiction author named Jeff Lint who never existed. Being unfamiliar with the sci-fi genre (and, obviously, a real dupe), it took several paragraphs before I realized the book is an elaborate and unhinged comedy (I puzzled for much longer than I should have over the remark that Lint used to write under the pen name “Isaac Asimov”). Lint offers a wide sweep of pulp/junk/underground culture, with clever fake book cover reproductions and a vortex of cameo appearances by the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Maurice Girodias and Gene Roddenberry. I love the part about Lint’s JFK conspiracy theory, which posits that the same assassin killed several presidents: “… the Magic Bullet was a ricochet from that fired by John Wilkes Booth at Lincoln in 1865. In outline, the bullet entered through Lincoln’s left ear and emerged through his right eye, swerving out of Washington’s Ford Theatre and heading north, felling politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee as he walked to his home on Sparks Street, Ottowa; ricocheting back along its original course, the bullet hit President James Garfield as he boarded a train …”. There are several pages of this before the bullet even arrives at the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza.

Michael K. Gause‘s Tequila Chronicles is a charming chapbook that must have been inspired by Baudelaire’s instruction for life: ‘Be always drunken’. The image of a wine bottle graces the cover, an actual beer coaster is pasted onto the last page, and every poem is annotated with the variety of alcohol the poet remembers imbibing while writing it (despite the chapbook’s title, beer and wine seem to be his favorites, and one can only wonder what tawdry circumstances led him to annotate one poem with “unknown”). The visual style even recalls Baudelaire, with a simulated hot-metal font that looks vaguely Parisian. Too many chapbooks are ciphers, and I like it that this one has a clear theme and a consistent style. I give the poet high marks even though I suspect he may need some fresh air and exercise.

Finally, a note about these reviews. We began asking authors and publishers to send us review copies several weeks ago, but were dismayed to receive a flood of emails containing Word documents, PDF files and pasted-in poems. The point of book reviews is to inform readers of works they can buy, and there’s little point in telling readers about books that are not yet available for them to enjoy.

Most distressingly, when I explained this to a few of the authors in question, more than one replied to me that the books they sent are in fact published (usually via iUniverse, AuthorHouse, xLibris, etc.) but that they did not want to spend money buying me a review copy. People. You are asking me to spend several hours of my time reading your book … I think you see where I’m going with this. No more PDF’s or Word files, please …

6 Responses

  1. EtiquetteThe last two

    The last two paragraphs bring up two good subjects: etiquette and following submission guidelines. As a new writer, I have been struggling a bit with both lately. I have been especially guilty of asking editors questions about guidelines pertaining to their particular publications-and if I had only read them in the first place my questions would have been answered. This is obviously and justifiably irritating to the editor/ publisher involved. I primarily write poetry so my target audience for now are the small literary magazines and presses. I while I do fine in writing cover letters and bios, I breach etiquette in a sense by not always putting my best foot forward and sometimes knowingly submitting mediocre or even submediocre work. This is rude to the editor in that basically I am wasting their time. I am learning, though and have decided to take a short break from submitting new work to the ‘zines. Time to regroup, refocus, catch up on reading and create. I’ll be back.

  2. I hate to think of myself as
    I hate to think of myself as any kind of stickler for etiquette. As the type of guy who visits somebody’s house, kicks my shoes off and puts my feet up on whatever is in front of me, I’m definetely nobody to talk about etiquette.

    Maybe the word that captures it for me is “drive”. I like to see a writer who believes in his or her self so much they go all out in getting themselves known. They put effort into every aspect of their work — the way it looks, the way it sounds, where it can be found. I don’t want to put myself out to promote an indie writer or artist if they treat their own work in a self-defeating way. That’s mainly what it is for me. I want us all to succeed — and we’re not going to do it if we can’t get the basics of promotion right (like, if you want a review, send a review copy!).

  3. The Nerve of Some People!I
    The Nerve of Some People!

    I don’t understand why an author wouldn’t want to give a reveiw copy out for free. You would think the publicity from it would make up for the cost?

    Are people really that cheap?

    I asked Caryn to review my novel, and I’m gladly sending her a copy at my expense. Even then, I realize it may not ‘make the cut’ so to speak, but it’s worth the try!

    In order to market yourself you need to have savvy, and that requires breaking the piggy bank occasionally with the goal of recouping. I’m really getting into my own grass roots marketing campaign and I’m honored that LitKicks would even consider my book for a review.

  4. Thanks Steve — well, for
    Thanks Steve — well, for myself it’s a pleasure to try to give exposure to a writer who takes his/her own work seriously. I’m looking fwd to seeing your book once you send it to Caryn.

  5. Submission…I sent you a

    I sent you a word file as I misunderstood the banner on your site. I thought it said if you had a book or story that deserves attention, you would review it. I mis-under-read you, but, if I had a copy I would certainly send you one at my own expense. If I don’t believe in my work, who will. It’s just that I am stuck in that murky foggy sticky netherworld where my baby (re:novel) is in an editors hands at my agency, and I was looking for a third party set of eyes to review it and give me some objective criticism… I hate the silences involved w/ publishing… but rest assured, when it gets to print, I will pay to fedex you one, as I want Litkicks to be the first group to review my work… That would mean something to me as the voices on this site & the authors that this site is devoted to seem to speak the same language as my muse…

  6. Hey Deminizer — yeah, maybe
    Hey Deminizer — yeah, maybe the wording on our invitation is unclear, since several people did the same thing. I guess that’s my fault. In your case, also, you sent examples of your poetry, but we’ve already been enjoying and reacting to your poetry on the Action page. I think that’s the best kind of feedback you can get — seems like a much more organic type of critique than anything we can write about poetry here in the articles section.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!